Past a certain point, things get . . . non-linear
I'm always intrigued by models that correlate to some physical reality. It's amazing, for example, when weather forecasters plug some numbers into a computer model and are able to predict with reasonable accuracy how a storm will evolve, or the way physical modeling synthesis creates models of instruments rather than simply sampling them.
But models are only as accurate as their assumptions, and people often assume that a good thing will go on forever—but it’s also necessary to take saturation into account when making projections about reality. Life is a lot more like analog tape than the classic exponential curve, and remembering that can save us from some nasty mistakes.
Consider cell phones. When they first appeared, they sold at ever-increasing rates—yet despite cooler and slicker cell phones than ever, sales are leveling off. The first six billion weren’t that hard to sell, but now that there are almost as many cell phones as there are people living on this planet, it’s not going to be as easy to sell the next six billion . . . just like analog tape, things tend to saturate.
Sales projections are another good example. Remember Casio's first foray into the music business? They sold hundreds of thousands of CZ-101s, which led them to believe they would sell hundreds of thousands of strap-on keyboards, drum machines, synthesizers, etc. It didn't quite work out that way, and several months later, those products were being blown out of warehouses at bargain basement prices. (Apparently Casio learned from their mistakes, because when they re-entered the music biz, they got it right.)
Taking this into account puts a new spin on making projections about technology. Electronic music devices have become so complex that many people's ability to absorb more knowledge has hit the saturation point, which I think is a factor in the back-to-basics, retro trend. We’ve seen this with computers, too. PC users were hungry for Windows 7, but aren’t feeling quite the same compulsion to go from Windows 7 to Windows 8.
Even more telling, some people have become so saturated with computers they’re more than satisfied with an iPad or even a smart phone. This “dumbing down” is a direct response to people's saturation levels—so next time you feel like you can't keep up with the rate of technological change, don't sweat it. You're not the only one hitting overload these days.
Will people stop moving to the next level altogether? Not if the next level is one that combines greater power with greater simplicity—which is the Holy Grail for manufacturers who want to beat the “tape saturation effect.”
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You can choose to show the times for messages in relative time, like “three hours ago” or “yesterday,” or absolute time, like “03-20-2013 11:42 AM.” (However, also note that if you hover your mouse over a time entry with relative time, you’ll see it expressed as absolute time.)
Go My Settings > Preferences > Display and scroll down almost to the end of the page. Either check or uncheck “Use relative dates,” then click on Save. Done!
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